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Foodhandler-Associated Salmonella Outbreak in a University Hospital Despite Routine Surveillance Cultures of Kitchen Employees

  • Najwa A. Khuri-Bulos (a1), Mahmoud Abu Khalaf (a1), Asem Shehabi (a1) and Khaled Shami (a1)



To describe an outbreak of salmonella food poisoning that probably was due to contamination of mashed potatoes by a foodhandler, which occurred despite a policy for routine surveillance stool cultures of kitchen employees.


A case control study of 223 individuals who ate the lunch meal on September 23, 1989, at the Jordan University Hospital (JUH) cafeteria.


Tertiary care university hospital in Amman, the capital of Jordan.


Individuals who developed loose stool or vomiting 6 to 72 hours after eating the lunch meal of September 23, 1989, at the JUH cafeteria.


Of 619 individuals, 183 fit the case definition (attack rate, 19.6%); 150 were employees, 26 were inpatients, and seven were visitors. Twelve other employees became sick 4 to 6 days later and probably were infected secondarily. The incubation period ranged from 16 to 72 hours in 183 instances. Symptoms included diarrhea (88%), fever (71%), abdominal pain (74%), dehydration (34%), and bloody stool (5%). Eighty-four were hospitalized. Cultures of eight food items were negative, but stool culture on 90 of 180 patients and 11 of 61 kitchen employees yielded Salmonella enteritidis group D.

A cohort study of 223 individuals revealed a food-specific attack rate of 72% for the steak and potato meal and 18% for the rice and meat meal (RR, 4; CI95, 2.62 to 6.24; P<0.01). Stratified analysis of the steak and potato meal revealed that the potatoes were implicated most strongly (RR, 1.93; CI95, 1.42 to 2.64; p<0.01). Cultures were obtained from all kitchen employees, and 11 of 61 grew Salmonella enteritidis group D. One asymptomatic, culture-positive employee prepared the mashed potatoes on September 23. All of these employees had negative stool cultures 3 months earlier.


This outbreak probably was caused by massive contamination of mashed potatoes by the contaminated hands of the foodhandler. Routine stool culture of foodhandlers is not cost-effective and should not be used as a substitute for health education and proper hygienic practices.


Corresponding author

Department of Pediatrics, Jordan University Hospital, Amman, Jordan


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Foodhandler-Associated Salmonella Outbreak in a University Hospital Despite Routine Surveillance Cultures of Kitchen Employees

  • Najwa A. Khuri-Bulos (a1), Mahmoud Abu Khalaf (a1), Asem Shehabi (a1) and Khaled Shami (a1)


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